Evolving user behavior heralds biz opportunities

With more things turning mobile, the way people use tech for work and recreation changing quickly and shift represents market opportunities for IT vendors, analyst says.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--IT convergence, particularly in the mobile arena, is changing the way people live and work as TVs and desktops are now making way for smartphones and tablets. This fundamental shift in consumer mindsets and behavior, which is quickening in pace, represents market opportunities for businesses to benefit from, says one analyst.

Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner, pointed out that as everything starts getting "mobilized", from personal computers and software to services, there corresponds a seismic shift in terms of how people are living their lives. He was speaking Tuesday at the Infocomm Industry Forum (IIF) 2011, which is jointly organized by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF).

Citing the example of an apartment layout, the analyst explained that previously, people used to arrange the furniture and other household items around key fixtures such as the television and phone lines. Nowadays, these are no longer key considerations as people can relax on the couch to do simple computing or consume media content via tablet devices such as Apple's iPad, he stated.

Additionally, people's values are changing, Ingelbrecht noted. Past status icons such as a big house or car is slowly diminishing in value as people look at other indicators such as how many friends one has on online social networks and how famous they are in real-life, he added.

With people starting to plan their lives around mobility, efforts to invest in the PC market such as Intel's Ultrabook push is the right thing to do from the perspective of vendors, said Ingelbrecht. However, he argued that such initiatives are unlikely to succeed in the long run as people turn to tablets and smartphones for 80 percent of their computing needs on the move, while the remaining 20 percent are spent on desktops at home or in the office.

Cloud, context-aware computing big potentials
In view of the consumer changes, the Gartner analyst suggested that strategic IT trends will revolve around cloud computing, which delivers many of the most popular Web services and sites today, and context-aware computing.

Elaborating, Ingelbrecht said modular, flexible datacenter infrastructures will increasingly become more important to support the cloud services provided by Google or Facebook, and there are opportunities for hardware vendors to provide such technologies.

Context-aware computing, on the other hand, looks at the data and usage patterns people exhibit online, he noted. This would require big data and analytics capabilities, which is another growth area for the overall IT industry.

Singapore, for one, has plans to boost the local tech industry in these areas. According to IDA CEO Ronnie Tay, the IT regulator is focusing on five areas to grow the infocomm sector. One of these is in the field of analytics, which he categorized under the "Internet of knowledge" category during his speech at the IIF event.

He said: "With the information explosion of recent years, the challenge is now to store and manage data, and use it to help us make right and timely decisions. It is therefore unsurprising that the data-related industry of cloud computing and analytics are fast growing."

To better tap this trend, the CEO announced that the IDA will be issuing a call-for-collaboration (CFC) next month for business analytics shared services for two industries. This CFC will solicit proposals from service providers to establish and offer business analytics shared services in the areas of retail customer and marketing analytics, retail inventory optimization and operation analytics for the manufacturing and food and beverage sectors, he said.

The IDA hopes the CFC would make business analytics more readily available to the sectors and lower costs and barriers of adoption as well as for the business community to develop and propagate best practices on how to utilize the technology.

As for cloud computing, Tay announced that the IDA, together with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), has placed cloud computing under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme. Under the scheme, small and midsize businesses can qualify for a 400 percent tax deduction for the first S$400,000 (US$314,880) incurred to acquire cloud services.

"I encourage businesses to make use of the PIC scheme to invest in productivity and innovation," he said, adding that no application is needed and businesses can claim the tax benefits as part of their annual tax filing.

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